PRESS RELEASE: NAPABA Condemns Roanoke Mayor’s References to Japanese American Internment

For Immediate Release
Nov. 19, 2015

For More Information, Contact:
Brett Schuster, Communications Manager
[email protected], 202-775-9555

NAPABA Condemns Roanoke Mayor’s References to the Japanese American Internment to Justify Suspension of Aid to Syrian Refugees

WASHINGTON — We are outraged by Mayor David Bowers’ disgraceful comments about his decision to suspend assistance from both government and nongovernmental agencies to Syrian refugees in Roanoke, Virginia. His inflammatory remarks invoke the distrust and xenophobia that led to the unjustifiable internment of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II. This is unacceptable and such intolerance has no place in our country.

As Asian Pacific Americans, we are shocked that Mayor Bowers would justify his actions by referring to one of the darkest chapters in American history, when an entire community was unjustly held in suspicion, taken away from their homes and livelihoods, and interned because of their ethnicity. Instead, we must learn from that tragic time and refuse to demonize Muslims, Syrians, and others seeking safe haven in America, as many of our forebears once did.

Earlier this week, President Obama announced that Minoru Yasui, an internee who challenged the internment of Japanese Americans in the U.S. Supreme Court, would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The U.S. Congress apologized for internment in 1988. Sadly, Mayor Bowers has shown that many of the same prejudices Mr. Yasui faced in 1942 still exist today and, unfortunately, he is not alone in promoting this intolerance. More than half of the nation’s governors, members of Congress, and state and local lawmakers around the country have echoed this xenophobia, which vilifies entire communities.

We must recognize the humanitarian needs of refugee populations and we must refuse to act based on fear and intolerance. As history has shown, such actions do not make our country safer and rejects the basic tenants of what it means to be an American and betrays our deepest values.


The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of approximately 50,000 attorneys and approximately 75 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. Its members include solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal services and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government.

NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.

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